Spoiler alert: This piece contains crucial plot points from X-Men: Apocalypse, and is intended as a primer for the film’s Digital HD release. Read on at your own risk.
Why do we love superhero narratives?
It’s because the characters we follow in comics and watch on the silver screen represent idealized versions of our real-world selves. Sure, they may be covered in spandex and their bodies may be chiseled beyond the realm of human possibility, but they still think and feel the way we do.
Like us, heroes wrestle with morality, grapple with loss and perhaps more than anything understand what it’s like to be a little different.
It’s quite possible that no hero in the Marvel stable represents this idea like Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Audiences familiar with the X-Men film franchise will remember Jean Grey as Professor Xavier’s cool-headed right hand, as well as doctor and teacher at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The Grey we came to know was immensely powerful yet kept a steady handle on her telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
In Apocalypse, however, audiences meet a Jean Grey who was none of these things rather, a self-conscious teen who was terrified of her enormous potential.
In other words, she was the embodiment of those all-too-familiar coming-of-age years, and as such, she’s one of the most relatable characters that Marvel has ever known.
There are three scenes in Apocalypse in which this fact is glaringly apparent, so let’s revisit the 2016 blockbuster in order to arrive at a greater appreciation of young Jean Grey.
1. The nightmare
When young Jean Grey arrives at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she isn’t trying to discover her powers like the other students; she’s trying to conceal them. Already a practiced telepath, Grey worries that she’s too powerful for the school, and these feelings come to a head one night while she’s sleeping.
One night, Jean has a vivid nightmare about the world ending and the trials the young X-Men will soon have to face. What’s more, she doesnt just see the events unfolding she feels them through her telepathy. The dream upsets her in such a visceral way that her body erupts with intense flames that scorch her bedroom.
Although Professor Xavier assures her that it was all just a dream, Grey can’t shake the common adolescent feeling that her powers are misunderstood, and worse, that there’s a piece of her that even she doesn’t know how to control.
2. Meeting Scott Summers
Apocalypse introduces audiences a staple member of the X-Men, Scott Summers (Cyclops, as he’s more commonly known), and also sews the seeds of the long-standing romance between Summers and Jean Grey.
The two meet on the grounds of Xavier’s school, during a time in which Summers is feeling perhaps more self-conscious about his powers than Grey feels about hers. After noticing this, Grey is quick to assuage his concerns and offer an olive branch, volunteering herself as the “biggest freak” in the school.
Although it’s easy to dismiss the line as self-deprecation and further acknowledgment of her self-consciousness, it actually sets the table for Grey and Summers’ continued relationship and personal growth within the X-Men program and illustrates how we often look for support in those we consider to be similar using those relationships to overcome alienation, feelings of difference and moments of self-doubt.
3. Battling Apocalypse
The climax of the film and Grey’s character development comes during a head-to-head showdown with the most powerful villain the X-Men have ever seen, the demi-god Apocalypse.
The battle was the first time Jean allowed herself to let go of her fears and embrace the full extent of her abilities. And the result was a far cry from her standard telepathy and telekinesis it was the most potent force in the mutant world: The Phoenix Force. Apocalypse was decimated by Grey’s surprise ability, ensuring an unlikely victory for an overmatched group of X-Men.
Defeating Apocalypse showed Grey that she was much stronger than she gave herself credit for, and all she needed to do to unlock this powerful new side was to cast aside all doubts and have faith.
Grey’s victory wasn’t just about good triumphing over evil, though, it was about the realization that difference is something to be celebrated. Her story arc reminds audiences that while it may be difficult to feel unique, saving the day doesn’t come down to what makes you the same as everyone else.
If you missed out on what makes Jean Grey a highly-relatable hero, it’s time to take another look. Keep an eye out for X-Men: Apocalypse out now on DIGITAL HD, on DVD & Blu-ray from September 28th, and relive the latest epic chapter in the celebrated saga.
To get your copy today on DHD , click here.